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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
A name occurring only once in the Bible and designating the place where the last great battle of the ages will take place (Revelation 16:16 ). It will coincide with the second coming of Christ (Revelation 16:15 ) and there all of the hosts of evil will be defeated (Revelation 19:11-21 ).
Armageddon is a Hebrew word, although it does not occur in the Old Testament. Its meaning is not exactly clear, but it is best taken to mean Mount Megiddo, since "Har" in Hebrew means mountain and "Mageddon" is the place-name of Megiddo.
In Old Testament history Megiddo was a place of numerous decisive battles because of the broad plain that stood before it. Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera and his Canaanite army there (Judges 4-5 ), Gideon drove off the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6 ), Saul and the army of Israel were defeated because of their failure to trust in God (1 Samuel 31 ), and the Egyptian army under Pharaoh Neco killed Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kings 23:29 ). Although these decisive battles were fought before Megiddo, the place-name never became fixed in Jewish tradition as designating the place of decisive battle. However, given the fact that it was such a place, it is natural that John should use it to locate the final great battle on earth.
Some interpreters take John's designation literally, expecting the armies of the earth to gather against God in the endtimes below the remains of Old Testament Megiddo; others see in it a more figurative element. They point out that Megiddo was not really a mountain at all and that the battle will take place in the plain. Perhaps John designated it Mount Megiddo as a clue to its symbolic meaning, drawing together the historic place of conflict in Israel's history with the prophecies of Ezekiel that speak of the great eschatological conflict taking place in the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 39:2,4,17 ).
In any case, John sees the final triumph of God at Armageddon and offers that to the persecuted Christians as a word of comfort and hope that evil will not win, but is doomed to ultimate destruction.
Walter A. Elwell
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
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Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Armageddon'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bed/a/armageddon.html. 1996.